Faces of Loki – part 1: Resilience of The Bound-One

Early on in my blogging here, I wrote about Loki and his many faces and aspects. I recently re-shared that entry with a few groups, and had quite a few people suggest that I write more about each of these faces and aspects. So, this will be the first of that series. Though we will discuss them later in the series, I won’t be addressing the aspects of shape-shifter and trickster at this time because they are the most commonly talked about faces of Loki. So for today, I would like to look at one of the less talked about qualities that also happens to be one of my favorites. That quality of Loki is resilience, even as the bound-one. 

One of the first stories of Loki that ever stood out to me, likely because of my own past, was how he got his scarred lips. Now, though I will say that it is understandable how one could say this particular incident, Loki brought on himself with his trickery. “I said you can have my head but not my neck”. But, he’s also not the only deity in history that pulled a similar stunt. However, we skip ahead to the point. Put simply, Loki’s mouth was sewn to shut him up. And many accounts of the story say that he walked away with his head low and even ashamed that he was now unable to speak. How many of us can relate to that feeling? Though not physically sewn up, I know all too well the feeling of being made to stay quiet, to not speak, and to hold in my truth around family and loved ones. But, here is the lesson I got from this tale. One of Loki’s core lessons is self-truth and speaking truth even when no one wants to hear it. And though the lore never tells us how he did it, we know that after the shame of having his mouth sewn shut, he did find a way to break that thread and speak again. That story spoke to me because it was the first time I, personally, recognized the resilience he could have in continuing to speak one’s truth. But this is not the only time he showed resilience (and sometimes down right stubbornness not giving up on something). Think about what had happened just before his mouth was closed. It happened because he lost a wager with the dwarfs who made the gifts for the gods. And if you recall, the one gift that came out too short, was the handle of Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer. This too, was caused by Loki’s persistence. The reason it came out short, was because the fire in the forge had to maintain the same steady burn and heat. But Loki, knowing this, turned himself into a gadfly to pester the dwarf in charge of pumping the fire and keeping it steady. Loki kept buzzing around the dwarf’s head trying to get him to let go and swat the fly away. But he didn’t budge. So Loki flew closer, around his ears, and even landed on him. And still no change. So Loki, the fly, bit the dwarf as hard as he could on the brow to the point it bled. And that is when the dwarf let go for a split second to wipe the blood away. But that split second was all it took to make the hammer come out shorter than wanted. Again, who’s right or wrong is not the topic here. The point is, he kept trying. He persisted until he got what he needed. And truthfully, had it come out the length they had hoped, Thor would likely not be able to swing it. Then, let’s recall the story of Idun and her apples. In this case, Loki’s persistence and resilience actually saved the day for everyone. And he also attempted to be persistent enough that the kidnapping almost didn’t even happen. So many people make this story another example of Loki just being evil and luring Idun away to get caught, without mentioning why he did it. He had been taken by a giant and left stranded and freezing on an iceberg. The giant told Loki that he would let him off the ice if he would get the apples for him. Loki told him no, and when the giant pressed him about it again, Loki told him its not even possible to get them. So he got left on the ice freezing more and more. The giant came back and asked again, and Loki, once again, said it wasn’t possible. And then later, again he was asked when he was weak and, some accounts say, his tears were freezing to his face from the cold. And that is when he finally agreed. The giant, knowing that Loki won’t break an oath [yes, that will be a topic at a later time], made Loki swear an oath to bring Idun and her apples back to him before he would set Loki free. So Loki had to do it. And when he was sent to retrieve Idun, he didn’t just fly in and attack. He took his time and planned how to get in and how to take Idun back home. Versions vary on how he carried her home. But, he flew as fast as he could with her with the giant, in Eagle form, swiftly coming after him. He kept flying when even the Aesir watching from the wall could see he was tiring. But he didn’t quit, and Idun and ALL the gods were saved. 

And now, we fast forward to the end tales. After that famous feast, Loki hid. But when he saw the gods coming for him, he didn’t just wait and let them take him. He became a fish, and he swam upstream (like salmon do). Even when Thor grabbed him, he still squirmed trying to get away so much that Thor’s grip thinned the tail of his fish form. And then when he was caught, and was, for all intents and purposes, defeated; he still didn’t completely give up hope of breaking free. The bound-one, chained to a rock, beaten down, tortured both mentally and physically by the loss of his children and loved ones, and venom burning his face, writhes and wiggles and shakes so hard that it causes the very earth to quake. He does not just lie still taking it. He does shake the earth itself, fighting with what strength he has left. And we know that he will get free, and he will fight again. And knowing that this time it will be his end, he will still rise and fight back in the biggest battle the world has ever seen. Just as we should continue fighting for ourselves, what we believe in, and what we know to be right, no matter how many times we get knocked down. Like him, we may rest or even hide away for a time when it gets too hard for the moment. But we also get back up, and keep fighting until the end. And that persistence and resilience of the bound-one, is one of the faces I love most about my dear scar-lipped patron.

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